The impoverished landscape of a rural Welsh quarry town forms the backdrop to this gritty and uncompromising coming-of-age story, littered with broken homes, domestic violence, child neglect and delinquency, where finding redemption through the power of words is the only way to escape your present and your past. The novel is elevated from bleakness by a rich atmosphere of Welsh language and culture, which sings off the page.
But slowly Pigeon learnt that English was a weapon, and could be a shield. You needed it in pristine condition, and you needed the tricks of it, so you could defend yourself. Your own language was a part of your body, like a shoulder or a thigh, and when you were hurt there was no defence. When the kids argued in Welsh at home on the hill it was a bare knuckled fight. But English. With English what you had to do was build armour, and stand there behind your shield to shoot people down. Pigeon buried his own language deeper and deeper in that armour. Until the beatings stopped.